As part of a homework assignment for my Journalism course I had to look up several online features. Now, since I am a travel-lover, I decided to look for articles about travelling. In my search I found the following interesting article on the BBC website titled “Ethical Traveller: Taking Photographs of People” accompanied by the following intriguing picture.
I have to admit that this picture is what made me press the read-more button and I am glad I did. It opened up a new debate for me.
When I am exploring a foreign country, I love to get to know different cultures and different people. I also love to capture these different cultures and people by taking pictures of them. This article argues, however, that it is more ethical to approach the people in an overt way before taking a picture, to really talk to them and ask for permission. I agree that these ethical constraints should be taken into account. How would you, a person from a part of the world that attaches a lot of value to privacy, feel if people took random pictures of you?
However, I have never fully considered these ethical constraints when taking pictures, probably because of the following reasons. Pictures that capture a person in his cultural environment or that capture a person in an action can create beautiful pictures, beautiful art. Asking a person beforehand, I feel, would destroy the original setting.
Besides the art argument, there is also a more practical one: What about a picture involving many people? Should we ask all of them for permission?
Of course, every situation is different and I think that some do require clear restrictions. But I believe that the key-word is balance. With a little feel for timing and tact I think you can make pictures of people in certain situations. Another aspect, for example, is also what you’re going to use them for.
What do you guys think? Can you take pictures of people without them noticing?